In a recent interview with The New York Times for their Men’s Style section, Hodinkee writer Cara Barrett answers questions about what it’s like being a woman in the world of wristwatches. With the website’s readership almost exclusively male, it presents an interesting question about why watch collecting seems to be a male-dominated activity.
In the interview, Barrett shares the experience of receiving backlash for referring to a 36 millimeter Rolex Oyster Perpetual timepiece as a woman’s watch based on its case size. The idea that anyone would take offense to an inanimate object being labeled as such sounds archaic, especially considering the fact that blog readers tend to be younger and ostensibly more nuanced than those who read the paper. However, it seems that the views of these blog commenters fall more in line with baby boomers than millennials.
It is no secret that watchmakers cater their sales and marketing toward men. Most of their offerings for women are shiny jewelry pieces with limited complications and maximum bling. While they hire female brand ambassadors, like Lindsey Vonn shown above wearing a blinged-out yellow gold Day-Date, they are always outnumbered by their male counterparts. You may see one of these women wearing a wristwatch model marketed to men, but even that can cause rumblings on forums and comment threads from men dubbing the model too feminine.
Barrett also comments about the lack of female executives in the watchmaking industry, something that I can attest to after reviewing annual reports from leaders in the Swiss watchmaking industry. This is something that is true across many industries, though, even those that sell products designed and marketed for women. The same can be said about minorities represented on these executive boards, too.
The conclusion I have come to about the lack of women represented in the world of horology is that it is simply a matter of positioning. There is no incentive for these companies to strive for gender equality in their advertising campaigns because doing so will alienate the part of their current customer base that doesn’t believe that women are in fact equal to men.
With the industry trying to recover from a steep decline in sales over the past few years, these companies will likely continue to only make room for sexy supermodels and female athletes that act as little more than cheerleaders for their brands because giving their products macho appeal will result in a higher return on investment. However, watch geeks like Cara Barrett make the future of watch collecting more inclusive by the simple virtue of establishing a voice for women in the industry.